VOD Wars: How video streaming services are upping one another

by Matthew Escosia
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It has always been a matter of what it’s in it for your audience.

Like the big battles won by top television networks for the viewership ratings and the large film grossers in the box office, creating a meaningful and killer content is vital. Content is still king, regardless of which medium you’ll put it.

But content programming is another beast entirely. In fact, it might’ve been a more difficult thing to pull off. It’s an intensive study of your audience, the existing and the ones you seek to add. This has been more apparent with the onslaught of video streaming services.

Although they seem to look the same upfront, each offers something uniquely insightful.

Netflix leverages on original programming, one that is proven to be as successful as buying the rights of an extremely popular title to lure consumers in.

Their original serials such as “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards,” and “Orange is the New Black,” which earned its large viewership by just being something creative and engaging, is a testament to this. It’s worth noting to see them tap on every conceivable market, from patrons of romantic comedies to experimental narratives. It’s this approach of being open-minded towards diversity that earned the loyalty of their subscribers

They are also filmmaker friendly. Their greatest asset as a brand is their sense of trust to content creators, allowing them to harvest Oscars in “Roma” by Alfonso Cuaron and newfound prestige by funding Martin Scorsese’s ambitious “The Irishman”.

Netflix is just starting. Competition will arrive, and they are equipped with a strong punch. One of their major strategies, going global.

Netflix is collaborating with regional production companies to produce locally relevant content to gain a wider global reach,” blogger Jerald Uy said of its recent global expansion to numerous countries.

Amazon Prime follows a similar battleplan with Netflix’s. Their mother company, the online store Amazon, is no content creator prior to their launch.

Like Netflix, they are opening the curtains for quality, original work. The only difference is that Amazon Prime is investing more on the ultimate video-consuming experience: cinema.

They make it a point that the films they are producing needs to have a regular distribution window (normally lasting 30 to 90 days) at theater chains before finally letting the whole world access it in the app via their personal mobile device days or weeks after its cinema run.

When it comes to content acquisition, Amazon Prime seems to only be concerned on US-produced works., despite the expansion to an almost global reach.

Amazon is still Western-centric compared to Netflix. I think it’s safe to say that Netflix has something for everyone,” said Ica Cheng, movie reviewer for Team PCheng.

The lack of a going-global mindset makes Amazon Prime still restricted to the possibilities of a wider appeal to more consumers.

iFlix, the rising video streaming platform in Southeast Asia, is more concerned in showcasing inaccessible titles to the viewing public.

iFlix has been championing Southeast Asian content ever since it was launched, from Korean dramas to classic films created by veteran filmmakers in the region.

It is also one of the first in the Philippines to distribute film festival works from Cinemalaya, CineFilipino, and Cinema One Originals, allowing them to have a second life outside a week-long festival run.

“iflix has plenty of independently-produced films in their library which means they don’t just value commercially-released films but also those that had a limited release in cinemas. A great way to support Philippine cinema,” said Nazamel Tabares, writer for Pelikula Mania.

HOOQ champions Southeast Asian titles the same manner as iFlix.

Their competitive edge has been prominently rooted on exclusive distribution deals with local studios (Viva, Regal Films), one that allows its users to access their films that just came from cinemas weeks ago.

HOOQ’s library is more mainstream than, say, iFlix. Their catalogue mostly comprises films from Regal and VIVA. With regards to their foreign content though, their library is rather interesting as they have titles you won’t find on Netflix/iFlix,” noted Louie Baharom, writer for Cinephilia PH.

In the Philippines, HOOQ is the one least concerned with producing new materials, continuing to lurch on what’s latest from their partners.

iWant operates as the Philippine version of HBOGO or CBS All Access, digital venues of reputable television networks.

It also operates by becoming fully aware of its television audience from ABS-CBN, which is mostly comprised of a crowd favoring mainstream, by-the-numbers material.

iWant’s content library is diverse, varying from restored Filipino movies to its home network’s primetime television programs. Their recent rebranding from iWant TV to being simply iWant is a testament of their company in becoming more progressive than ever.

Even with a niche market, iWant is risking for experimental material, working closely with award-winning Filipino filmmakers such as Dwein Baltazar and Victor Villanueva.

They are following a business model that works for ABS-CBN in terms of catering to their viewers, but with the expansive avenue that digital media is taking, I guess iWant is following a strategic pattern that doesn’t limit them to what TV viewers want like formulaic storylines, and at the meantime, being able to stream unavailable titles,” said Princess Kinoc, writer for Film Police Reviews.

Inarguably the biggest movie company in terms of owned IPs (intellectual property), Disney’s own streaming service is taking a big swing even on a soft launch in select areas. Like their more recent properties, Disney+ will bank on very familiar territory.

Announced line-up of movies/ series for its grand launch are mostly rethreads or continuation of their own properties. They are digital series and movies based on materials from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and a lot more.

It can be said that Disney is playing too safe on this one, and something that lean towards more original ideas should be the biggest priority if they are eyeing for the long run.

Video streaming services are here to stay, with more poised to become a heavy player in future competition (Disney+, HBO Max). As a platform driven by subscriptions, continuing to innovate their content programming has never been more important than ever.

It is truly an exciting time wherein content prominently defines the biggest battles digitally.

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